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Berkshire trims Apple stake, adds Suncor and Red Hat, exits Oracle

(Reuters) – Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc said it trimmed its stake in iPhone maker Apple Inc, its largest stock investment, and added positions in Canada’s Suncor Energy Inc and software company Red Hat Inc.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Apple is seen at a store in Zurich, Switzerland January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Berkshire also appeared to have shed a $2.13 billion stake in database software company Oracle Corp after having first disclosed it only in November. It is rare for Berkshire, which has owned some stocks for decades, to reverse an investment decision quickly.

The changes were disclosed in a Thursday regulatory filing detailing Berkshire’s U.S.-listed stock portfolio as of Dec. 31, which shrank $38 billion in the quarter to $183.1 billion amid a broad-based selloff in stocks.

The decline will likely punish Berkshire’s reported net income, though not operating results, when the company reports fourth-quarter and year-end results, expected on Feb. 23.

It is unclear why Berkshire’s Apple stake shrank to 249.6 million shares from 252.5 million in the fourth quarter. Buffett has said minor fluctuations might reflect stock buybacks rather than a change in his thinking.

Apple’s share price fell 30 percent in the quarter, and Berkshire’s stake fell below $40 billion from about $57 billion.

Thursday’s filing does not say which investments Buffett and his investment managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler were responsible for.

Nonetheless, investors monitor the trio’s investments for signs about where they see value, and stock prices often move higher when Berkshire discloses new stakes.

Suncor shares rose 4 percent after Berkshire reentered the stock, which it last owned in the third quarter of 2016, with a 10.76-million-share stake worth $300.9 million.

Shares of Red Hat rose 0.3 percent after Berkshire revealed a 4.18-million-share stake worth $733.4 million.

Oracle shares fell 1.3 percent.

Suncor, Red Hat, Oracle and Berkshire did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Berkshire has more than 90 businesses in the insurance, energy, food and retail, industrial, railroad and other sectors.

With help from Combs and Weschler, Buffett often buys stocks when buying whole companies appears too expensive. Berkshire last completed a major acquisition in January 2016.

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Most other changes in Berkshire’s stock portfolio were relatively smaller, though it boosted its stake in JPMorgan Chase & Co by 40.5 percent to 50.1 million shares, worth $4.9 billion.

Combs is a director at JPMorgan, which is working with Berkshire and Amazon.com Inc to create a new company aiming to cut employee healthcare costs.

Berkshire also confirmed its new, $261 million stake in StoneCo Ltd, a Brazilian credit card processor that went public in October.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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